Who is Entitled to Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Case in Washington?
In the State of Washington, the legislature has adopted a statute that provides two classifications or levels governing who is entitled to recover in the event of a wrongful death caused by the negligent or intentional act of another.
The first classification pertains to the spouse and children (including adopted children and step children) of the decedent, who are automatically entitled to bring a lawsuit (this does not mean that they will automatically be awarded damages; liability must first be proven).
The second classification generally consists of parents and siblings of the deceased who were financially dependent upon the decedent.
The exception in the second classification is that a parent may bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a child if the child is a minor. In this circumstance, parents do not have to show financial dependence.
If a couple has a registered domestic partnership, the surviving partner may be entitled to bring a wrongful death action.
Surviving parents of an adult child who is unmarried and leaves no children at the time of death may also recover for the loss of their son or daughter.
Do You Have Standing to Bring a Wrongful Death Action?
In order to recover for a wrongful death in the State of Washington, a Personal Representative must be first appointed. The Personal Representative is entitled to act on behalf of the Estate, and on behalf of the beneficiaries. If you are a relative mentioned in the first classification, or a parent of a minor who was killed, then you should be a beneficiary of the wrongful death statute. If you are a relative mentioned in the second category, we would need to know more about the facts and circumstances of your case to determine whether you were financially dependent upon the deceased loved one according to Washington state law.
If this is your situation, or if you are a personal representative (or if a family member has been killed and a personal representative has not yet been appointed) please call us so that we can learn more about your case. Our initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation to use us. At the consultation you can learn about our services, and we can learn about your case and help you understand the options that may be available.